Thursday, October 12, 2017
That's not just a shiny new outpatient clinic the state's Veterans Healthcare System has built in Mena but a shining example of how to provide health care for Arkansas' veterans. Instead of outsourcing vets' care to contractors who specialize in operating hospitals, the clinic at Mena will be run directly by employees of the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Why not? No one has a greater stake in restoring the reputation of the VA than those who work there. It's an old and hard-earned lesson: If the hired help aren't doing a good job, then do it yourself and cut out any middle men who just get in the way.
At last count, Arkansas had 16 outpatient clinics for veterans, and Mena's is only the latest to switch from contractor-provided health care to directly serving its patients and the country's best. For these vets don't just talk about their patriotism (if they talk about it at all) but exemplify it by the sacrifices they have made for their country.
Margie Scott is a doctor whose name will be familiar from her persistent efforts to reform the Veterans Administration from within. She directs central Arkansas' medical center for vets and sounded as excited as her staff did as she discussed the grand opening of the new outpatient center at Mena. "It's a brand new building with state-of-the-art equipment, modern construction and veteran-centered design," she said. This new clinic should be a most welcome addition to Arkansas' network of VA medical centers now anchored at Fayetteville, Little Rock and North Little Rock.
These clinics usually offer vets basic care augmented by some special services. The new one at Mena is to offer not only the basics but additional programs in mental health, tele-medicine, and--it's about time--a women's health program, too.
Dr. Scott, physician and administrator, may have summed up how the new facility at Mena fits into the whole picture: "Our mission is to honor and care for our nation's heroes, and this new clinic is built just for that purpose."
After every war, this nation vows never to forget those who still bear its wounds. But all too soon, Americans forget those who do. Even when remembering our heroes on ceremonial occasions, we forget our vow--and the treatment of veterans soon lapses into all too recurrent neglect.
If this state and this nation should seek a simple motto to adorn its VA facilities old and new, there's scarcely a better one than Lest We Forget.
Editorial on 10/12/2017
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